International Travel Planning

Part of the reason for moving halfway around the world was to travel - obviously. I lived in NYC for 3 solid years, and I didn't leave the Northeast part of the US once. Money was mostly the reason for that, but I also was just complacent with being in the supposed "greatest city in the world."

With Christmas upcoming, what better time to do some Asian traveling? SLP has been so generous to give us December 22nd until January 2nd off, which is a nice 11 children free days away from school. From what I hear it is only one of two or three schools that has this kind of extended break. I know some teachers here that only have Christmas Day off and then it is right back to work (I also met some that get 2 weeks, but that is RARE). I got lucky with this, but if you're considering coming to Korea - this is one of the things I would suggesting asking about in your interview.

When we realized we had this break a few months ago the first thing we thought of was Thailand. Warm beaches, interesting cities that seem to cause people across the board a wide range of opinions (awesome/beautiful place vs. dirty/disgusting). However as time went on interest seemed to wane and prices on airfare seemed to skyrocket.

Then, almost like magic came my friends with the idea of meeting up in Beijing for New Year's Eve. And then I realized we could meet up in Shanghai first so that is exactly what is happening. I could have gone through a travel agent for this, but I'm a big fan of doing things myself. I surveyed some friends and found that and were two very efficient international websites with cheaper than most flights. Sprice is a site that actually searches the Asian discount airlines (along the lines of Southwest or TWA at home) but be careful about what airports they fly you into.

After the tickets were booked I then realized I would be in need of a Visa to get into China. Luckily for me I'm American, so this means you must pay more than anyone else in the world just to see what this place has to offer. It's $100 for a single entry visa, OR $100 for a multiple entry visa up to one year. HOWEVER being an American, IN Korea, I apparently cannot just walk up to the Chinese embassy here and request a visa (which btw, the visa offices at the Chinese Consulate is only open from 9am-11am M-F and takes 4 days to process). BEING that I am an American I must go through a travel Agent and spend an extra $50 to make this all happen AND it is only good for 30 days, single entry. The travel agent was right next door to school so it was actually more convenient this way, but spending $150 for a 6 day trip to China wasn't exactly what I had in mind. Ah well.

Next was the overnight train from Shanghai to Beijing. One of my travel companions found an excellent tour company which has been absolutely amazing as far as speed and communication: Dragon Delight, China. They put together my friends entire tour from Hong Kong to Shanghai to Beijing, and are only doing 1 out of my 3 days in Shanghai, and they took care of booking the train tickets as well.

Lastly was the accommodation for the trip. I'm taking a chance and staying at a hostel. At $5 a night I will be staying right in the heart of Shanghai at the UCool International Hostel, and then will be staying at the 365 Inn (hostel) in Beijing with friends for New Year's Eve. Both of these places were found either by word of mouth, or from various hostel websites just by using Google and reading a number of reviews.

SO we shall see how well prepared I am once I actually get to China... wish me luck!